Friday, April 30

A Brief Apology

It's been pointed out to me that my promised column for this week hasn't appeared. I'm here to say "sorry about that."

I've done, I think, a fairly good job of balancing the day job with the writing but sometimes the former has to take priority over the latter - especially in these superfun economic times. I wish that weren't the case, but then, I wish I could write about this stuff for a living, and if wishes were horses....

Anywho, the point is that there won't be any Lost-related ramblings until next week despite my promises to the contrary. I'm tired, and I can assure you that whatever I'd have produced would've reflected that. I'd rather not subject myself or you good folks to the virulent toxicity of half-baked Morse prose. The topic I'd planned to discuss will be featured in my forthcoming book.

Tune in over the weekend and early next week - I'm going to be showcasing some of our readers' artistic endeavors and offering some thoughts up on the show's final stretch. As always, I look forward to your comments, thoughts, and baking recipes. I very much appreciate your patience and your loyalty to this lil' blog o' mine.



Apropos of Nothing

Morning, all!

I don't want this page laying dormant all week, so how about the first official picture of Chris Hemsworth as Thor?

Grip your mighty Mjolnir in excitement and click here.

Thursday, April 29

A Convergence of Good Fortune

Good morning, everyone.

Please join me in taking a moment today to say congratulations to Back to the Island reader Sam Balcomb, whose promotional video, "Convergence," just won ABC's contest. If you missed out on Sam's work you can find a link to his video at the end of the column for The Last Recruit.

Wednesday, April 28

Lost in NYC II

Hola, all. Hope you're enjoying your week off from all things Lost. It's been a nice opportunity for me to recharge the ol' mental batteries before we charge into the Final Four.

I've been thinking about organizing a casual get-together for readers and myself, something relaxed and fun before the finale. I'd appreciate a chance to put faces to the names of the folks who post here, and I think it'd be fun to grab a few drinks and talk Lost.

Anyone in the general NYC area interested in doing this? We'll pick a spot in Manhattan and a time that's good for everyone. Post a yay or nay in the comments section or shoot me an email at

Tuesday, April 27

Lost In NYC

Just off 14th Street, Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Friday, April 23

The Last Recruit (S6, ep. 13)

The Back to the Island column for The Last Recruit has tossed itself off a boat for your reading pleasure on

Thursday, April 22

Your Back to the Island Teaser Quotation

The column for "The Last Recruit" will publish tomorrow on In the meantime, here's your teaser quotation:

"Nature is like the chain of the Ferris Wheel, endless and infinite, and these little carriages are the bodies or forms in which fresh batches of souls are riding, going up higher and higher until they become perfect and come out of the wheel. But the wheel goes on. And so long as the bodies are in the wheel, it can be absolutely and mathematically foretold where they will go, but not so of the souls. Thus it is possible to read the past and the future of nature with precision. We see, then, that there is recurrence of the same material phenomena at certain periods, and that the same combinations have been taking place through eternity."

See you all mañana...

Passing the Conch: The Back to the Island Guest Column

Aloha, folks.

I'm currently hard at work, piecing together another of my shambling creations. It'll post tomorrow on, and I hope it's enjoyed. In the meanwhile, let's pass the Conch and cede the stage to Musicologist, Music Journalist, and Musician Josh Cutchin.

Josh shot me an email this week pointing out some interesting musical trivia about this week's episode. Seeing as he's the Musicologist, and I'm the dude with a blog, I thought I'd offer him a chance to share his thoughts with all of you. He came back to me with a really interesting piece. So put your virtual hands together for Mr. Josh Cutchin, who's musical stylings can be sampled by clicking this here link.


The Last Recruit was a very special episode of ABC’s LOST. Not because of any ground-shaking, earth-shattering revelations, but rather because it was the first episode of the six-year series that dared to approach its musical content with the same fervor and depth it usually reserves for themes, mythology, and imagery.

Please don’t misunderstand me: LOST has used music in very successful ways before. The continuity of themes is admirable – Beyond the Sea and Catch a Fallen Star have popped in and out of the series in significant ways that are meaningful to the plot and its themes. However, the original score, by Michael Giacchino, has done little to inspire. In most cases, the score of LOST does what every film score should do on its most basic level: it complements the music and stays out of the way. In The Last Recruit, however, Giacchino’s score aspired to do something more, to impart meaning.

Approximately twenty-five minutes into the broadcast (eighteen, for you online viewers), I was struck by what sounded like a paraphrase of Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 third movement. Compare the Chopin to this excerpt from The Last Recruit (MMorse - I've attempted to add Josh's mp3 file to this post without success. Fortunately, Josh has helpfully provided you with the approximate time of the score snippet in question. I'll see about figuring out how to get the actual file on here). The similarities are striking.

Both compositions are built on top of a repeated minor third quarter-note ostinato; the Piano Sonata third movement (commonly know as Chopin’s Marche funèbre: Lento, or “Funeral March”) is in Bb minor, while Giacchino’s composition is only a half-step higher, in B minor. Moreover, the melodies of both compositions are built around minor thirds, while the sequence of long and short notes is strikingly similar. If the time was taken to transcribe Giacchino’s composition, more similarities would undoubtedly surface.

So why imitate Chopin’s “Funeral March”? Well, some of the reasons are obvious to fans of the series. At this particular point in the story, the ominous “Man-in-Black" is leading his ragtag group of followers through the jungle on a literal march – when coupled with the longstanding deathly connotations of Chopin’s composition, the connection is obvious. The Man-in-Black is leading them to something less-than-desirable.

M. Ziem, a fellow artist and longtime associate of Chopin, wrote this about the Funeral March’s composition:

"Some time later Chopin came into my studio, just as George Sand depicts him -- the imagination haunted by the legends of the land of frogs, besieged by nameless shapes. After frightful nightmares all night, in which he had struggled against specters who threatened to carry him off to hell, he came to rest in my studio. His nightmares reminded me of the skeleton scene and I told him of it. His eyes never left my piano, and he asked: “Have you a skeleton?” I had none; but I promised to have one that night, and so invited Polignac to dinner and asked him to bring his skeleton. What had previously been a mere farce became, owing to Chopin's inspiration, something grand, terrible and painful. Pale, with staring eyes, and draped in a winding sheet, Chopin held the skeleton close to him, and suddenly the silence of the studio was broken by the broad, slow, deep, gloomy notes. The “Dead March” was composed there and then from beginning to end."

“Nameless shapes,” albeit coincidental, certainly conjures up images of the Man-in-Black’s alternate guise, that of the Smoke Monster. Confronting one’s mortality also seems to be a theme prevalent on LOST. Most striking and important, however, are the less-obvious connections between Chopin’s composition and LOST.

Giacchino’s theme appears once more following the Sawyer’s explanation of his plot to double-cross the Man-in-Black – the former has decided to ditch the latter in a bid to escape the island. On the surface, Sawyer and a handful of his comrades are allied with the Man-in-Black. In reality, they are planning to rebel against him and leave. University of Pennsylvania and renowned Chopin scholar Jeffrey Kallberg claims that the “Funeral March” is as much about the November Uprising as it is about death.

Chopin, a Polish nationalist, had deep sympathies for his countrymen in their effort to seek independence from the Russian Empire. Needless to say, the effort went poorly, with over 7,000 Polish soldiers dying in the battle. Upon learning of the failed attempt, the grief-stricken Chopin composed his Piano Sonata No. 2. Chopin’s first biographer was so struck by the result that he heard “the pain and grief of an entire nation” within the third movement.*

At this point in LOST, there are various factions working towards numerous ends. In the case of Sawyer, he is trying to assert his independence from the Man-in-Black; however, the similarities between Michael Giacchino’s score and Chopin’s “Funeral March,” with all of its baggage, simply do not bode well for our protagonists.

*The Marche funèbre was played at the funerals of Chopin, President John F. Kennedy, and Joseph Stalin.

Tuesday, April 20

Lost: Season 6, Episode 13 Discussion


Everyone feel that engine kick?

Tonight's episode pushed things forward for the characters on a number of levels (off-Island folks converging! On-Island folks fleeing!), seemed to answer a few questions (the MiB was Christian! Maybe! Sayid was brought back by the MiB! Probably!), highlighted some other questions, and delivered a lot of flat-out exciting stuff (Zoe: "show them what we're capable of.").

There's a ton of fun things to talk other in this one. Did Sayid shoot Desmond (my money's on 'no')? Is Sayid capable of 'redemption'? How about Sun's trauma-induced recognition of Locke? Widmore's sudden change of heart w/r/t Sawyer and the others? Jack's decision ("This feels wrong.")? Desmond's off-Island Jacobosity? The Jack and Anti-Locke sit-down (with a surprising lack of Jackface)? Claire's comment that Anti-Locke had spoken to Jack, making Shepard 'his'?

I loved it. It was an episode fully driven by attention to it's characters and observing how they've changed, how they remain the same (how great was that Sawyer/Kate scene off-Island?). It pushed us closer to The End firmly but slowly, as if daring us to peek over the edge before shoving us over it.

What did you think? Was Anti-Locke telling the truth about being Christian? That's been my longstanding theory, but Terry O'Quinn pregnant pause gave me room enough to doubt. If he can't leave the Island, how did Christian appear off-Island? On the other hand, Claire asks Jack if he's been told that the MiB was Christian, and we saw her hanging out with her dead dad in "Jacob's" cabin back in Season 4.

The MiB seems to have brought Sayid back from the dead (and Sayid calls himself a zombie in this episode, mirroring his previous denial ("I am not a zombie.")). How'd he do it? Richard says that he's never seen the dead brought back to life on the Island. Does that mean this is the first time the MiB has done this? Just that Richard was never aware of this? And what does it "mean"?

Original Post:

"There's no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going
There's no knowing where we're rowing
Or which way the river's flowing
Is it raining, is it snowing?
Is a hurricane a'blowing?
Not a speck of light is showing
So the danger must be growing
Are the fires of hell a'glowing?
Is the grisly reaper mowing?
Yes, the danger must be growing
For the rowers keep on rowing
And they're certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing!"

Those are the lyrics to "The Wondrous Boat Ride," the memorably insane and completely creepy song from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If you've seen the Gene Wilder original, you know exactly what scene it is: the one with the Boat, obviously, and also the one in which someone chops the head off of a chicken on the wall of a darkened tunnel.

It's messed up. And I can't wait to scar my as-yet-nonexistent children with it.

That song provided the musical basis for last week's teaser, creating an aura of menace and madness (and more than a little of-a-certain-age nostalgia) that promises events both Great and Terrible. Will we get our answer to the question of "infection"? Will Sayid speak the words "I have no choice"? Will we come to understand the Man in Black's true name/identity? Will the meeting between Jack and Locke be as brain-meltingly awesome as I'd like it to be?

Only one thing is more-or-less for certain:

There Will Be Jackface.

Leave you comments, criticisms, hopes, fears, and whathaveyous here in the comments section. I'll be in after the episode airs in the US on the East Coast to give my Instareaction. Enjoy it while it lasts, people. This is truly The Beginning of the End.

Monday, April 19

The Zombie Debate Continues...

Regular visitors on Back to the Island have probably seen my correspondence with an intelligent German reader who questioned my comparison of Sayid to the concept of "philosophical zombies" (or "p-zombies"). While that gentleman and I agreed to disagree on the applicability of the term to Sayid's character, we both agreed that calling him a "zombie" was pretty apt.

Now it looks like Naveen Andrews, the actor who so capably portrays Sayid, might also agree. The new issue of TV Guide features cast photos of the main Lost actors, alongside their responses to TV Guide's question: If you could place your Lost character on another show, what show would it be? Here is Andrews' answer:

"HBO's vampire series, True Blood, where a character as dysfunctional - and potentially undead - as Sayid would actually fit."


Read the entirety of the article (which isn't much - what's up with the trend of running GIGANTIC PHOTOS alongside smatterings of text in magazines? Are we collectively that illiterate these days? /End Old Man Rant) right here, at the Hollywood Reporter.

Everybody Loves Hugo (S6, Ep. 12)

The Back to the Island column for Everybody Loves Hugo has taken it's life-long love of Chicken and used it to create a benevolent Empire for your reading pleasure on

Thursday, April 15

An Interview with Hiroyuki Sanada

Good morning, everyone. My interview with Hiroyuki Sanada (Dogen on Lost) has been posted on for your reading pleasure. If you enjoy it, please Digg it, or whatever it is that the kids are doing these days.

Hope it's enjoyed!

Tuesday, April 13

Lost: Season 6, Episode 12 Discussion

The Instareaction:

So were you left grinning ear-to-ear, nervous and amped up; almost absurdly energized by tonight's episode? Or was that just me? Further confirmation of the Love Snake theory, a warm and touching reappearance from Libby, a splintering of purposes, Death By Water Bottle, Jack's willingness to trust, Desmond's lack of fear, The appearance of another of the Island's Lost Boys (was that the MiB as a child?), the knowledge that some of the dead are trapped on the Island (echoes of my well of souls theory) and that the Whispers are the voices of those Purgatorial souls, the way that Desmond acts as a kind of Jacob in the Off-Island world, and the way the episode ends.....

Is this show really going to stick the landing?

After tonight I'm more confident than ever that the answer is 'yes.'

Original Post:

Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) would like to petition JJ Abrams for more Lost, according to a bunch of different online sources.

I'd sign that petition - and I never sign petitions for television/film/entertainment. See, counting tonight's episode there are just four (FOUR!) episodes of Lost left until the finale. How did this happen so quickly? And do they make a form of Methadone that's strong enough to deal with the withdrawal symptoms I'm going to be dealing with?

Some of you already know that once Lost ends I'll be turning my attentions toward The Book (which you can contact me about at and toward new material, so it isn't as though I'll be leaving this show behind completely or quit writing altogether. That said, I've been writing on/about Lost for almost a full year now and the transition away from that and onto other things is going to feel very, very weird.

But that's a subject for a month-and-change from now. Tonight it's all about the new episode. Leave your thoughts and comments here - I'll be in after it airs on the East Coast to give my Insta-reaction.



Apropos of Nothing

Joss Whedon is in final negotiations to direct The Avengers.


We now return you to your regularly-scheduled Lost-centric programming.

Monday, April 12

Island Reviews: Waking Sleeping Beauty

"Waking Sleeping Beauty" (WSB for the rest of this review) is one hell of a home movie. Want to see what a young Tim Burton looked/acted like while crammed into one of Disney's old animator offices, or want to catch tantalizing glimpses of folks like John Lasseter and Glen Keane?

Of course you do. People like Burton, Lasseter and Keane are titans in the animation industry, and the idea of seeing archival footage that features them working at Disney during the studio's infamous fallow period (late seventies through the end of the eighties) made me salivate like one of Pavlov's puppies. Even more promising: Don Hahn (veteran animator, Oscar winner, and home-video-enthusiast) has worked at Disney from the age of twenty, and he was present and filming on all of Disney's "second golden age" features, from Little Mermaid through the Lion King.

It's a shame then, that for this viewer WSB ends up feeling both unfocused and wrongly-focused at the same time. The film spends most of it's running time split between (1) the efforts of Disney Animation to produce relevant (read: "fiscally successful and ripe for ancillary product creation/exploitation") films again following a string of critical and financial disasters and (2) the now-infamous relationship between Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner.

But by splitting the focus (and arguably spending FAR too much time on the Katzenberg/Eisner details - there's nothing that's said that couldn't have been succinctly expressed with a few minutes of voiceover or one judiciously-chosen interview) the film abandons its initial promise. WSB doesn't truly tell you HOW Disney Animation shifted from making clunkers to making new classics. Instead, the film just tells you that it happened.

That sin is compounded by what Hahn DOES choose to share with us. Why are we spending time on Katzenberg and Eisner when there's footage of Howard Ashman (lyricist for Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and most of Aladdin) playing "Under the Sea" for the first time for a group of delighted animators and looking adorably self-conscious in the process? Why do we spend too much time listening to Roy Disney's behind-the-scenes grievances when there's footage of Robin Williams riffing as the Genie in clips that never made it into the finished film?

This pattern repeats itself over and again. Either we're shown the "what" without the "why" or the "how" (Controversial animation figure Don Bluth managed to steal half of Disney's animators away from the studio. We learn that this happened, but not why or how) or we're shown yet-more footage of Eisner playing Cheerful CEO for the cameras or Katzenberg on a couch.

That's not to say that "Waking Sleeping Beauty" isn't worth seeing. If you're a fan of animation in general (as I very much am), or of Disney, or of the specific films from this period, WSB is very much worth a rental, if only to watch as Howard Ashman gives a very specific set of intructions to the voice of Ariel and cements a classic moment in Disney history. But if you're hoping for something deeper, something that focuses on the true creative heart of Disney's animated films - the animators - then you're likely going to be a little disappointed. We see their faces (in truly endearing home-video shots), and we hear a bunch of them say hello, but we never get a sense of who these people are/were, what they did, why they did it, or what the process was.

What we get instead are the reminiscings of one animator and a scattered array of really great moments captured on film. While Don Hahn is warm, engaging and blissfully armed with vintage archival footage, that warmth is overshadowed by two titanic egos who've already had their stories told and told in detail. Katzenberg and Eisner's feud marrs "Waking Sleeping Beauty" just as it seems to have marred Disney's breathtaking Mermaid-to-Lion-King track record.

The Verdict: Rent it.

The Back to the Island E-Mail Bag: P-Zombies, "Infection," and Very Intelligent Germans

After the Back to the Island column for The Package was published on I received a comment admonishing me for drawing a potential comparison between Sayid’s “infection” and the idea of philosophical zombies (just click on the link to go to the column in question and refresh your memory). I invited the commenter to explain to me and the audience just why it was that the comparison didn’t fit. And while that commenter never responded to my invitation, I did get a lovely e-mail from a German gentleman (let’s call him “Our Mutual Friend,” since I haven’t received his permission to use his name) that attempted to do the same thing.

We had a brief but interesting exchange, and I thought that you folks might want to read it. It’s dense on his end with some pretty heady philosophical language, but I think it’s worth your time if you’re interested in delving a little deeper into Lost’s Pool of Potential Philosophical Touchstones. You can read the exchange by clicking here.

My thanks to Our Mutual Friend for sharing his copious knowledge, and for engaging in an intelligent and respectful dialogue. The majority of people who've contacted me since I started this blog have been a pleasure to communicate with, and I'm pleasantly shocked to have found so many sincere and kind people inhabiting the virtual world.

Saturday, April 10

Happily Ever After (S6, Ep. 11

The Back to the Island column for "Happily Ever After" has experienced enlightenment for your reading pleasure on

Thursday, April 8

Lost: Season 6, Episode 11 Discussion

UPDATE (04.08.10)!!

The Back to the Island column for "Happily Ever After" will be published tomorrow, not today, on Part of this is due to my having far too much fun yesterday, but most of it is due to the fact that there is a LOT going on in this episode, and I want to give the hour it's due.

Thanks for understanding, and for your patience - I can promise that the wait will be worth it!



Buh-bye, Second Snake theory? It sure seems that way, judging from the events of tonight's episode. The off-Island and on-Island universes bled together in Happily Ever After. What to make of everything? I'll be sussing it out over the next day or so, but here are some initial thoughts:

Eloise Hawking/Widmore as Mastermind of space and time? It's certainly hinted at here, as Hawking/Widmore reveals that she knows far more about Desmond's situation than he does.

And in that vein, what was up with Minkowski? Didn't he seem a little too eager to fulfill Desmond's every wish?

Desmond as Dr. Manhattan Island...Did anyone else think of Alan Moore's Watchmen as Desmond was caught in the EM field? And how bizarre was his sudden "enlightenment" at episode's end? What to make of him wandering off into the jungle with his old buddy, Sayid? Is he working off of some kind of "enlightened" state, aware that he's "supposed" to go that way? Is he aligning himself with the MiB? And what does he want with the Oceanic list? Is he looking to reunite the castaways and the potentially split timeline?

Back in Season 4 I talked about the idea of the castaways' conciousnesses becoming aware of their "past lives," and that's to some extent what we saw tonight. Consciousness was again an enormous theme in Happily Ever After, Along with the notion of Love as a powerful connector, drawing consciousnesses across whole worlds. If unabashed romanticism isn't your bag, then the Constant talk of love tonight probably made you groan. Im not allergic to the particular brand of sincerity (or schmaltz, depending on your POV), and so I found myself touched by the sentiment, rather than put off over it. I suspect results may vary. There's a ton of fun stuff to chew over in general this week - I'm looking forward to writing this.

Original Post:

Judging from the (often misleading) promo that runs after each new episode, this week's installment of Lost promises to make us all weepy. Will someone die tonight? It sure seems that way. Leave your thoughts on the episode here. I'll be popping in after it ends to give my Insta-reaction.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Thursday, April 1

The Package (S6, ep. 10)

The Back to the Island column for "The Package" has been gratuitously exposed for your reading pleasure on